GLENDALE—The All-Armenian Student Association is appalled and dismayed at the appointment of Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, to the Selection Committee for the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. As a notable scholar with expertise in human rights, Power continuously failed to use her high-level position in the Obama administration to hold President Obama to his campaign promise regarding the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Samantha Power began her career as a war correspondent in Bosnia during the civil war, where she became critical of the Clinton administration’s near-paralysis in the face of ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian population. Her observations were summarily collected in her Pulitzer-Prize winning book, “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide,” in which she firmly concludes that despite the outcry of “never again” following the Holocaust, the international community, particularly the United States, remains idle and ineffective in putting an end to mass atrocities.
Nevertheless, her ardent advocacy for human rights became stymied upon her appointment as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Power joined Obama’s campaign in 2008. A week before the presidential election, she released a video directed specifically to the Armenian-American community, urging them to vote for Obama because of his firm promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide once he is elected. During his eight years in office, President Obama dishonored his campaign pledge and Samantha Power – a person who knew all too well the gravity of this decision for the international community – did nothing to reverse his course.
In April 2017, Power took to social media to express regret for her failure to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide during her time on Obama’s cabinet. “I am very sorry, that, during our time in office, we in the Obama Administration did not recognize the Armenian Genocide,” Power said on Twitter. During her tenure, Power clearly prioritized political expediency over properly advocating for the issues she believes in. An expression of regret, stated at a time when she has seemingly less power, is nothing but a missed opportunity. It is a disappointment not only for the Armenian community, but for the international community as a whole.
Further, it is even more disappointing that the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, which was “founded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors,” would reward Samantha Power with a seat on their Selection Committee. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is designed to raise public awareness and address some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues. At the forefront of these issues should be the need to hold public officials accountable for the decisions they make in protecting vulnerable communities.
The founders of the Initiative – Noubar Afeyan, Vartan Gregorian, and Ruben Vardanyan – have made a misguided decision in appointing Samantha Power to the Selection Committee. They have selectively praised her unparalleled expertise on human rights, while not recognizing that expertise alone does not justify her silence and inaction. We cannot merely praise her influential work in the past, while ignoring the fact that she fell extremely short at a time and stage that mattered the most. The All-ASA condemns the appointment of Samantha Power to the Selection Committee of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. We urge the Founders of the Aurora Prize, Noubar Afeyan, Vartan Gregorian, and Ruben Vardanyan, to reverse this decision.
The All-Armenian Student Association (All-ASA) works to unite various Armenian-American college student organizations and serve the greater Armenian-American community through cultural, social, educational, and activist programming. As the largest confederation of Armenian student organizations in the nation, All-ASA is dedicated to collaboration among its constituent organizations, leadership development of its members, and community service.